Steven (lilfluff) wrote,

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World Building Month: 1 - FTL in the Unnamed/Lost Colony setting

Post One of my World Building Month project

Setting: The Unnamed/Lost Colony (Setting for the Jayce & Izzy stories, the stories set an undetermined period of time later starting with Hello, and Welcome Back which involves two entirely separate planets)

Faster Than Light Travel and implications thereof in the Unnamed/Lost Colony Setting

Welcome Back opens with the captain of the Williamson's Hope being informed they'll need to make repairs to, "the starboard array," or it will fail the next time they try to make an FTL jump. Clearly this array has been giving them trouble as he's informed that they used up the last of the spare parts the last time they made repairs. Tough luck, but since this is the first FTL ship built by the New Albany colony it's only to be expected that they'll have issues, right? But what's the biggest issue? The Williamson's Hope just isn't big enough. In a followup to Welcome Back which is sitting unfinished one of the locals comments that the Williamson's Hope is smaller than they thought an FTL ship could be built.

This setting favors FTL drives that are built big. If you're building the drive big then you might as well build the rest of the ship to fit. Exploration ships were built with huge FTL arrays, substantial habitation decks, vast cargo holds, and large garden decks. But the colonization fleet built ships that were even larger. Ships with measurements in the thousands of meters that were capable of dropping off millions of people at new colonies on each multi-year journey. New colonies were more likely to be hindered by political restrictions than by lack of cargo space. It also meant that colonization ships were expensive and time consuming to build. Nearly all of them were built as international partnerships, indeed the majority of FTL vessels were built with funding from multiple nations and corporations.

This also meant that it would not be easy to back out of colonizing a world. Once your landers were dropped off you were stuck. The FTL drive leaves when the colonization ship leaves to drop people off at the next planet. As a result, as mentioned above, colonies were rarely settled without large quantities of supplies on hand. Indeed the International Committee on Colonization (ICC), which had control over the majority of the colonization ships, had in its regulations set minimum supply levels that were required before you could get space on a colonization ship. Even governments that saw colonization efforts as a handy way to rid themselves of undesirables rarely pressured the ICC to relax the minimum supply rule – indeed they often saw it as a handy way to simultaneously kick out undesired groups while filling coffers by forcing them to purchase their supplies from approved sources. While a colony near Earth might see ships pass through on a yearly or quarterly basis, as would be expected visits became rarer the further out you were. Many colonies set up with less than voluntary basis were settled and abandoned with no further visits of even a passing nature schedule.

The regulations of the ICC also meant that colonization projects that did not have the full support of one or more governments, corporations, or very wealthy individuals, often required multiple decades of waiting time and preparation. Colony projects would be required to obtain the minimum supplies, purchase the in-system landing ships to hold the supplies (possibly discovering that projects with higher priorities and funding were getting to purchase construction they thought they had reserved – no one said there was no corruption in the process), and sign up at least the minimum viable populations the ICC required. Groups attempting to set up a colony project that did not have the support of the more powerful governments or corporations often found the ICC requiring that they share the colony worlds with other groups. This happened with both the Unnamed Colony and the planet Anchorage in Welcome Back. It's a sign of just how expensive the process was that it happened on the Unnamed Colony despite the Western Continent being settled by a group formed of a few dozen multi-millionaires.

Another side effect of this setup is that neither the Unnamed Colony, New Albany, nor Anchorage have any idea why the Long Night occurred. The Unnamed Colony was, by the intention of those who settled it, a world chosen from the far fringes of settled space. Even without the Long Night it would likely have still been generations before anyone came by to see how they were doing. New Albany was settled by a collection of peoples considered politically undesirable and the government that encouraged them to settle there also encouraged the ICC to mark the world as one to be bypassed. Anchorage was actually intended to be a transit hub as settlement progressed out in its direction. The last updates they received when the last ship passed through contained no news of any problems. Anchorage had in fact been encouraged to develop its in-system space infrastructure so it could support ICC efforts to set up fueling and maintenance facilities. Then two hundred years of isolation passed before New Albany built the Williamson's Hope which after nine months of travel rediscovered Anchorage.

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Tags: science fiction, world building month, writing

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